2009-12-27 / Sports

Bearcats “post” third straight win

USA shows improvement, but is still looking for answers
BY CHRIS OGRYSKI EDITOR

Dakota Gangler, Steven Weber, Jon Slack Dakota Gangler, Steven Weber, Jon Slack UBLY – For one team it was the continuation of a great start, for another it was a start to something that could become great in the future.

When Ubly and Unionville-Sebewaing Area faced off on Tuesday, it was a battle of team’s heading in opposite directions at this point.

The Bearcats, who started the season 2-0, had picked up a pair of tough road wins over Reese and Elkton- Pigeon Bay Port to open the season, while the 1-2 Patriot’s lone win in the 2009-2010 campaign came against Deckerville.

This week’s game proved to be more of the same for both squads, as Ubly’s Steven Weber and Tyler Kubacki combined for 39 points in the post to lead their team to a 73-60 victory, while USA was still left looking for their own go-to scoring threat.

“I’m very proud of them,” Bearcat’s coach Joel Leipprandt said of his team’s effort. “They showed a lot of courage tonight and answered every run that USA had.”

Dakota Gangler, Eric Booms Dakota Gangler, Eric Booms The Patriot’s took an early 3-0 lead on a Josh Lakie triple to open the game, but Ubly responded with a 9-0 run, which included seven straight points for Weber, who scored a game high 22 points. Eric Booms added six in the opening quarter, which saw five Bearcats get in the score book en route to a 19-12 first quarter lead. “They had too many weapons,” USA coach Mark Gainforth said.

“They can go to three, four or five guys to score and they all stepped up,” he added. “Weber and Kubacki are just too much for us to handle down in the block.

“You don’t like to give up 40 points in the paint to two big guys, that is obviously a problem, but that is their strength.”

Peter Gacik Peter Gacik A Weber score with 3:10 to go in the first half gave Ubly what seemed like a comfortable lead at 37-21, but by halftime the Patriots had cut their deficit to eight points (38-30).

“We knew going in, they were going to put a lot of pressure on us and that they’d be relentless no matter what the score is,” Leipprandt explained. “Even if you are 16 points up, you have to keep concentrating and taking care of the ball, because they are going to be after you.

“Things got a little crazy in the second quarter and we lost (some of) that 16 point lead,” he added.

“We got into a little foul trouble, we had Steven on the bench during that time and he wanted to get back in the worst way, but it was the best in the long run to not have him get his third foul before halftime.”

While USA’s comeback effort early on and throughout the game wasn’t enough to lead to a victory, Gainforth was proud of his team battled. “We have a young team with many of them who have never started a game at the varsity level, so we’re going to have breakdowns. We battled back well most of the game, but we just didn’t finish the game the way we should,” he said.

Tyler Kubacki Tyler Kubacki While the first half for Ubly was all Weber, who scored 11 by half, the second half was all Kubacki. He scored 14 of his 17 points in the final two quarters, including a threepoint play with 2:13 left in the third, which extended a four point lead (48-44) back to seven.

Back-to-back scores early in the fourth increased Ubly’s advantage to 59-48 and proved to be a critical blow to USA’s comeback efforts. “Weber was good the entire game and Kubacki got real hot in the second half,” Gainforth said.

Leipprandt added, “Steven is just strong inside. He’s gotten so much better in the last year; he’s so much more patient in the post, his footwork has gotten a lot better and he is just tough.”

However, Leipprandt is quick to point out that a lot of credit has to go to Ubly’s guard for getting the ball to the low post duo at the right times to be successful. “We have to take advantage of our size and I think Adam (Glaza) and Justin (Cleary) just do a phenomenal job and they have a good understanding of that,” Leipprandt explained. “They also know when teams collapse they are going to have opportunities to knock down shots.

“Those two guys in the first three games, have shown some really good senior leadership from the guard spot.”

While Ubly has defined some of their leaders on the floor, USA is still looking for who their leaders will be. However, they did have an improved overall offensive performance as Andrew Botello scored 11, while Josh Lakie, Logan Walz and Derek Kundinger each added 10.

“On the one hand we scored 60 points, which is good for our team, but on the other hand we can’t give up 70,” said Gainforth. “We can’t score 70 points in a game, bottom line, we don’t have the weapons to do that.”

Which means defense is one area the team will try to improve on before the team returns to action in January. “We have to work on the things we’re not very good at and there are quite a few things,” Gainforth admitted. “We’ve got to get ready for the beginning of January and we have eight practices (from now until then) to do that.”

For Ubly, the team is well-tested heading into their final games before league play begins in January, which includes a Wednesday road trip to Kinde, where the Bearcats will face an undefeated North Huron team, who is riding an over 20 game regular season win streak.

“These were three really good games for us,” Leipprandt said. “I’m really proud of our guys with the mentality they have come to play basketball with.

“To play three quality teams like we did, I think we’ve been tested and survived so far,” he added. “Our side of the league is going to be tough, so we have our work cut out for us.

“I’ve learned (through these first three games that) our guys aren’t going to give up, they’re going to keep fighting no matter how the odds are stacked against them,” he said. “They just have a tough mentality.”

Meanwhile the Patriots are on the opposite end of the success spectrum at 1-3, but aren’t going to let that bother them. “We’re 1-3, but even if we were 3-1, in December you just look at what you can’t do and try to find the pieces to the puzzle,” Gainforth said.

Gainforth explained that it is hard to gauge where the team is at right now, since low post threat Jake Holland is still recovering from a hand injury. His return date has yet to be determined.

“I’ll have a better indication of where we are at when we get Jake back in the puzzle. We’ll mix him in and see how that works for us. Then we have a consistent, low post player, which is what Ubly has.”

With or without Holland, Gainforth knows that if December is a time to find out where you are at as a team, January is the time to start winning. “I was telling the kids you can be an insurance agent and work 12 hours a day, but if you don’t sell a policy you’re not good. You might work hard and have the skills to sell a policy, but (if you don’t make sales) you aren’t going to be in the insurance business.

“We can work hard, but we must get better. We need to sell some policies.”

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